Boris Johnson refuses to rule out another Covid lockdown in England

Boris Johnson has refused to rule out a return of coronavirus restrictions in England in the future – despite announcing nearly all rules will soon be thrown out.

The prime minister previously described the final unlocking, expected on July 19, as ‘cautious yet irreversible’.

But he warned ‘we are far from the end of dealing with this virus’ in a press conference today, saying ‘this is not the moment to get demob happy’.

If a new variant that evades the vaccine emerges or deaths soar after ‘the summer firebreak’, the Government will take ‘whatever steps necessary to protect the public’, he said.

The Tory leader has insisted his plan is ‘balanced and cautious approach’, as he’s accused of being ‘reckless’ by Labour leader Keir Starmer.

Speaking in a press conference on Monday, Mr Johnson said: ‘What we want to do is strike the right balance and we are trying to move from a system of very elaborate Government rules to one in which we rely on people to exercise personal responsibility, to follow guidance mindful, as I say that this pandemic is far from over. 

‘What we have achieved with the vaccine rollout has put us in a very strong position in comparison to many other countries in terms of the wall of protection that we have – but we must remain cautious and I think that’s why I’m asking people to think in that way. 

‘I don’t want people to feel that this is the moment to get demob happy, that this is the end of Covid. 

‘It’s very far from the end of dealing with this virus and I hope that’s been clear from everything you’ve heard from this press conference today.’

The Government will ‘take whatever steps we need to do to protect the public’, the PM said (Picture: Xinhua/REX)

Practice Nurse Nicola Morris (Right) vaccinates Lisa Hanson with the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination, at a mass coronavirus vaccination centre at Adwick Leisure Centre, in Doncaster, as the NHS ???Grab a jab??? vaccine drive continues in England. Picture date: Sunday June 27, 2021. PA Photo. Hundreds of walk-in vaccination sites including stadiums and shopping centres opened in England this weekend in a drive to have people jabbed as Covid-19 cases continue to rise. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

England is able to reopen due to the success of the vaccination programme, Mr Johnson told a press conference today (Picture: PA)

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 30: UK clubbers return to the dance floor as nightclub Circus hosts the first dance event, which will welcome 6,000 clubbers to the city's Bramley-Moore Dock warehouse on April 30, 2021 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. The event is part of the national Events Research Programme which will provide data on how events could be permitted to safely reopen. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)

Hundreds of clubbers will soon be mixing in nightclubs (Picture: Getty Images)

He continued: ‘On the irreversibility point, obviously if we do find another variant that doesn’t respond to the vaccines, if heaven forbid, some really awful new bug should appear, then clearly we will have to take whatever steps we need to do to protect the public. 

‘But on balance, given the massive success of the vaccine rollout, given the fact that this is a propitious moment, a good moment to do it given the coming summer holidays, the natural firebreak we have there, and given the difficultly of us opening up in the context of the colder, autumn and winter months, I think this is a balanced and cautious approach.’

Social distancing and face masks will become personal choices on ‘Freedom Day’.

Festivals and nightclubs will return as limitations on the number of people allowed to gather are trashed, while the work from home order will also be ditched.

Mr Starmer was quick to slam the Government today for throwing off nearly all protections as the infection rate increases.

A total of 27,334 cases were reported today while nine people have died with Covid in the past 24 hours.

The opposition leader told Sky News: ‘The prime minister has said he’s going to be driven by the data, not by dates.

‘He doesn’t have the data. He won’t have the data until later this week, so he’s not in a position to take a decision until next Monday.

‘So you have to wonder what today’s announcement is all about, and I think it’s about party management rather than public interest.

‘We all want the restrictions to be lifted, and we’re going to have to find a way of living with the virus – but that can’t just be a soundbite, we need a proper plan.

‘To throw off all protections at the same time, when the infection rate is still going up is reckless. 

‘We need a balanced approach, we need to keep key protections in place – including masks, including ventilators and crucially – something we’ve been asking for throughout the pandemic – proper payments for those self-isolating.’

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